People can manage acute gastroenteritis treatment with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. Ginger may also help reduce vomiting in gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut. It can result from exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms. The infection can cause various symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in people with gastroenteritis.

This article provides an overview of acute gastroenteritis treatment, including home remedies, prescription medication, and when to see a doctor. It also provides tips for treating children with gastroenteritis.

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Gastroenteritis symptoms usually resolve within a week, often in 1–3 days.

Doctors may prescribe medication to treat bacterial gastroenteritis. However, viral gastroenteritis usually needs to run its course.

Home remedies for gastroenteritis may lessen its impact. They include:

  • Rehydration: Drinking plenty of fluids helps reduce dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. While water is most helpful, soup and diluted fruit juice may also help.
  • Pain relief: OTC medications such as acetaminophen can ease fever, aches, and pains.
  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest allows the body to recover.
  • Restoring electrolytes: Drinking electrolyte drinks can reduce an electrolyte imbalance due to dehydration.
  • Eating plain food: If a person feels like eating, they can try plain foods, such as soup, rice, bread, and pasta.
  • Trying medications: Medications that stop vomiting, such as metoclopramide (Reglan) and ondansetron (Zofran), and antidiarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium), may help people manage gastroenteritis symptoms.

A 2021 randomized control trial examined whether ginger might reduce vomiting in children with gastroenteritis. The study compared the effects of ginger with those of a placebo. It found that children who consumed ginger had fewer vomiting episodes than those who had the placebo.

Adding ginger to drinks or food may be an effective and cost-effective home remedy for gastroenteritis. Ginger also has a general anti-inflammatory effect with many health benefits.

Learn whether drinking ginger water is good for health.

According to the British National Health Service (NHS), gastroenteritis usually resolves without treatment. However, an adult with gastroenteritis should see a doctor if they:

  • have symptoms of severe dehydration, such as dizziness, producing very little or no urine, and losing consciousness
  • have bloody diarrhea
  • vomit constantly and cannot keep any fluids down
  • have a fever above 100.4℉ (38℃)
  • have symptoms that do not improve after a few days
  • have recently returned from a part of the world with poor sanitation
  • have a serious underlying condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease

Gastroenteritis in children

Parents or caregivers should ensure children with gastroenteritis see a doctor if they have:

  • symptoms of dehydration, such as producing less urine than normal, irritability or unresponsiveness, or cold feet and hands
  • bloody stools
  • green vomit
  • continuous vomiting with an inability to keep any fluids down
  • diarrhea lasting over a week
  • vomiting that has lasted at least 3 days
  • a serious underlying condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease

In children, gastroenteritis-like symptoms can also arise from more serious conditions. A child needs to see a doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:

Read more about gastroenteritis in children.

Under some circumstances, doctors will prescribe medications for gastroenteritis.

As a 2018 review explains, these medications include antibiotics, which can treat bacterial gastroenteritis.

The most common antibiotics prescribed for gastroenteritis include:

However, doctors do not usually need to prescribe antibiotics.

This is because most gastroenteritis infections stem from viruses and typically resolve without treatment. While doctors may sometimes prescribe antidiarrheal medications for viral gastroenteritis, experts are unsure how useful these are.

Learn more about bacterial gastroenteritis.

According to the NHS, the following tips can help to manage gastroenteritis in children:

  • encouraging children to drink plenty of fluids
  • feeding babies as usual
  • ensuring children get plenty of rest
  • letting children eat small amounts of food if they are hungry
  • giving children acetaminophen for any fever, aches, or pains
  • using special rehydration drinks from pharmacies in cases of dehydration

Learn how to tell when a toddler is dehydrated.

Gastroenteritis is an infectious condition.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give the following advice for preventing it:

  • frequent handwashing
  • keeping the hands away from the mouth unless they are well-washed
  • avoiding foods or water that may contain gastroenteritis-causing microbes
  • avoiding unnecessary contact with people who have gastroenteritis
  • avoiding sharing towels, bedding, and toiletries with people experiencing gastroenteritis

According to a 2022 review, the outlook for viral gastroenteritis is usually excellent.

However, in some cases, viral gastroenteritis can be very serious in older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

A different 2022 review explains that the outlook for bacterial gastroenteritis is very good with adequate and prompt treatment.

Gastroenteritis can arise from bacterial or viral gut infections. The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, which usually resolve within 1–3 days.

If someone has a severe form of gastroenteritis, they may need treatment. Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial gastroenteritis and antidiarrheal medications for the viral form.

Drinking fluids is important for managing gastroenteritis, as vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Adding ginger to the diet may also reduce vomiting. However, home remedies cannot address the underlying cause of gastroenteritis.

People can prevent gastroenteritis with regular handwashing and proper food hygiene. People should take extra precautions and avoid sharing towels or bedding if a person in their household has gastroenteritis.